hepclassic

Gay True Stories That Need To Be On Film

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I agree that human sexuality is a complex issue but I really have a problem when people use " the gay lifestyle" terminology- it seems to imply that one day one simply chooses to be gay- as if it were as simple as choosing what to have for breakfast.  Bisexuality is another issue- which was explored in "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Chasing Amy"

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I thought I would be commenting on one particular comment on this thread, but seeing how I think it's fascinating to see where this conversation has gone, I chose to separate into another new comment because there is so much to say. 

 

I know jlewis from the Classic Film Union, and I am aware of J's writing style being very objective in tone and historical in presentation. I don't think J means to assume biphobia or homophobia by tracking heterosexual's dominant unawares of the spectrum of the orientation rainbow, so to speak. There is a point as to why, because from what I've gleaned and appreciated, is that J does to put history into context, and not really reflect on his own personal views. 

 

That being said, I also think there is context to the responses that to me, bare validity. The GLBT community is not a monolith as much as the African-American community is not a monolith. Both are made up of individuals expressing themselves as they see fit and to compare a GLBT individual who uses the other f-word to an African-American who uses the n-word and having both be a mention, it seems, to highlight unequal disparities sounds like blaming the victims for the faults of the aggressors. There is also a huge possibility that when a GLBT individual uses the other f-word they are redefining it to mean something positive, like some individuals in the African-American community uses the n-word to redefine it to mean something positive. There is so much identity policing between the people who generally oppress (white people and heterosexual people) regarding the people who are deemed "unfavorable" that even when one speaks up and defines one name as positive, that the socially privileged deem tokens before moving to the next round in the imaginary game they play of Equality, while those living to achieve it by challenging it directly in their own individual ways get lost to the players of Equality (by Milton Bradley). 

 

That being said, getting back to the point of discussion, film has captured the conversation of actual equality, but it hasn't done a whole lot to change the conversation of equality. Maybe its because studio heads/executives/CEOs still play by the Milton Bradley game of Equality to try to look good to those striving to achieve the actual in their lives for all lives. I don't know. 

 

Call me coy, but this is fascinating this conversation has reached this far and covered these bases. 

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I agree that human sexuality is a complex issue but I really have a problem when people use " the gay lifestyle" terminology- it seems to imply that one day one simply chooses to be gay- as if it were as simple as choosing what to have for breakfast.  Bisexuality is another issue- which was explored in "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Chasing Amy"https://youtu.be/rDVpTv8ayno

I don't have a problem with it, because some do choose to have same sex relationships. You mentioned bisexuals. All the active bisexuals I know admit this. They have desires in both directions and make conscious choices on what they want and when to act on it. Nothing wrong with that. It is about preferences, for most (perhaps all) bisexuals.

 

Also, there are lesbians and gay men who choose when to explore their sexual impulses. To suggest otherwise is to say they have no control over their bodies or their minds. Many lesbians and gays, like many bisexuals and heterosexuals, choose whether they will act on their desires within the context of certain situations. Saying someone picks a gay lifestyle (instead of abstinence) should not be problematic. It's like choosing to have a piece of chocolate cake instead of staying on a diet. I know it sounds funny to say it that way, but it's a plausible analogy. We should not be going around acting like some people cannot control whether or not they will have that piece of cake. Give adults more credit for making conscious choices in their lives. When I look at the adults I know, I see when they have moved beyond adolescence, they develop ways to keep raging hormones in check. The ones who do not usually wind up in a series of broken relationships.

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I thought I would be commenting on one particular comment on this thread, but seeing how I think it's fascinating to see where this conversation has gone, I chose to separate into another new comment because there is so much to say. 

 

I know jlewis from the Classic Film Union, and I am aware of J's writing style being very objective in tone and historical in presentation. I don't think J means to assume biphobia or homophobia by tracking heterosexual's dominant unawares of the spectrum of the orientation rainbow, so to speak. There is a point as to why, because from what I've gleaned and appreciated, is that J does to put history into context, and not really reflect on his own personal views. 

 

That being said, I also think there is context to the responses that to me, bare validity. The GLBT community is not a monolith as much as the African-American community is not a monolith. Both are made up of individuals expressing themselves as they see fit and to compare a GLBT individual who uses the other f-word to an African-American who uses the n-word and having both be a mention, it seems, to highlight unequal disparities sounds like blaming the victims for the faults of the aggressors. There is also a huge possibility that when a GLBT individual uses the other f-word they are redefining it to mean something positive, like some individuals in the African-American community uses the n-word to redefine it to mean something positive. There is so much identity policing between the people who generally oppress (white people and heterosexual people) regarding the people who are deemed "unfavorable" that even when one speaks up and defines one name as positive, that the socially privileged deem tokens before moving to the next round in the imaginary game they play of Equality, while those living to achieve it by challenging it directly in their own individual ways get lost to the players of Equality (by Milton Bradley). 

 

That being said, getting back to the point of discussion, film has captured the conversation of actual equality, but it hasn't done a whole lot to change the conversation of equality. Maybe its because studio heads/executives/CEOs still play by the Milton Bradley game of Equality to try to look good to those striving to achieve the actual in their lives for all lives. I don't know. 

 

Call me coy, but this is fascinating this conversation has reached this far and covered these bases. 

I'm disappointed in your above response. First, I sense a deliberate attempt at coyness as a way of possibly mocking the points of view of others you take issue with (not cool). Also, the 'f' word was not mentioned, or really even referenced, until you brought it up and went there with this discussion.

 

When I mentioned the 'n' word earlier, I was using it merely as an example of how a culture can be forced to deal with some sort of on-going pain. Applying that to gays and lesbians, I was not talking about the 'f' word (which is usually spoken by bashers) but instead I was referring to the often self-inflicted pain gays and lesbians feel by being who they are (a lot of self-loathing usually, because in my observations, a lot experience internalized homophobia). 

 

I don't think we should be speaking on behalf of another poster. Let him/her explain and defend their posts, if they feel so inclined. But someone who makes unbiased historical comments in other venues is not necessarily going to do that here or in all discussions in which they participate. You seem to be making a blanket statement in defense of the other poster, because it seems you want to dismantle an opposing point of view instead of engage in healthy debate. Anyway, I was really disappointed in your recent comments and could not let them go without addressing what you wrote and pointing out your method, which I think severely undermines an open exchange of ideas that you publicly claim to foster.

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I don't have a problem with it, because some do choose to have same sex relationships. You mentioned bisexuals. All the active bisexuals I know admit this. They have desires in both directions and make conscious choices on what they want and when to act on it. Nothing wrong with that. It is about preferences, for most (perhaps all) bisexuals.

 

Also, there are lesbians and gay men who choose when to explore their sexual impulses. To suggest otherwise is to say they have no control over their bodies or their minds. Many lesbians and gays, like many bisexuals and heterosexuals, choose whether they will act on their desires within the context of certain situations. Saying someone picks a gay lifestyle (instead of abstinence) should not be problematic. It's like choosing to have a piece of chocolate cake instead of staying on a diet. I know it sounds funny to say it that way, but it's a plausible analogy. We should not be going around acting like some people cannot control whether or not they will have that piece of cake. Give adults more credit for making conscious choices in their lives. When I look at the adults I know, I see when they have moved beyond adolescence, they develop ways to keep raging hormones in check. The ones who do not usually wind up in a series of broken relationships.

Yes you do make a choice to act upon your desires - but not on what you desire

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Gee Hep... thanks... if you were complimenting me.

 

Maybe? I think you might have been, but not sure.

 

Ha ha!

 

Topbilled and I pretty much understood each other in our posts but some readers... maybe you too?... could have been a little confused by it all. Maybe I should clarify and be more specific. I don't think Topbilled needs me to spell all of this out, but I will do it for all other readers here.

 

 

I think your comments are over-generalizing (and ironically stereotyping) to some extent. I know blacks who are progressive on a host of issues but still not in favor of 'mixing' because they feel it waters down their own culture. They see the need to preserve their race and its beautiful cultural components.

 

Whether or not I was "over generalizing", I was not intentionally "stereotyping" but comparing how the "gay lifestyle is different" and "tragic gay hero" themes mentioned earlier were potentially stereotypical simply because they have become too commonplace in movies and TV over the years just as other (more blatantly defined as) stereotypes (i.e. blacks being lazy or fighting cops) were too commonplace in mass entertainment until Hollywood got more progressive.

 

Of course, all of us agree that every "community" has members on both sides of every issue and many who are proud of preserving their own "cultural components" and fear the social changes may "water" it down. Not every gay thinks "marriage equality" was worth fighting for, but simply wants enough social rights so that they are not in fear of losing their job on account of their private life or denied housing because of whom they live with. (This is one reason why the recent legislation in North Carolina is so damaging, even though the original intention of the exclusively GOP politicians was to simply prevent transgenders from using the wrong restroom.) Likewise, not every black would agree any more about interracial marriage than their prejudiced white counterparts, although they do want to be given equal treatment under the law regardless of their race.

 

Perfect case in point: Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, which finished filming the same month (June 1967) that Loving v. Virginia was settled in the Supreme Court. Now... most here would not consider that a "great" movie like Citizen Kane, but it was a nice mainstream conversation piece that allowed movie goers to see how familiar stars playing characters (Spencer Tracy giving his final performance weeks before his death) handled a situation "average" America was unsure about. Isabel Sanford gave an excellent performance here, quipping while watching in disgust, "Civil rights is one thing. This here is something else."

 

I am rather disappointed that there was no mainstream movie or TV "conversation piece" like Guess Who's Coming To Dinner showing different characters reacting differently released in 2015-16 and covering gay marriage. Instead we just had politicians and Kim Davis battle it out and the Vatican act all cautious... which was no help to the American public adjusting to the new laws. There is no Spencer Tracy character battling the pros and cons of the issue on screen before making a final decision... much as Supreme Court justices have to.

 

The closest to a "mainstream" movie (widely seen in an "available on DVD at Wal-Mart" sort of way) I can think of, off hand, is The Kids Are Alright with Julianne Moore and Annette Benning as a married couple with kids, released five and a half years before gay marriage became nationwide. While the ending is good with the kids proud of their same sex parents, I had some issues with it being a "goofy" comedy rather than a serious one like GWCTD and Julianne's character cheating with Mark Ruffalo because she missed "being with a man". This, of course, would satisfy the heterosexual male viewer who thinks every lesbian can be "cured" this way. (She still stays married though.) The film wasn't all that bad, but there was that peculiar after taste in my mouth afterward, making me think somebody could have done a better job with this same subject matter.

 

More from the original post...

 

Also, I wouldn't say millenials are necessarily more accepting and open minded. My cousin's daughter is 20, and she gets a kick out of going on Facebook pages of vegetarian groups and vegan groups to post pictures of the deer, wild turkeys and fish she and her boyfriend killed and recently ate. She loves to make fun of progressives and she and her friends are not too gay friendly. It's not a generational thing, it's an attitude that gets handed down from one generation to the next. Also, some younger people who experiment with their sexuality might reverse themselves and become more conservative and rigidly opposed to such openness later on, when they are raising a family. 

 

I did provide a Pew Research poll in my response post indicating that I meant millenials "overall" and certainly not everybody.

 

What made me laugh about this situation is that she comes off as a typical "I want to be different" 20 year old who happens to be annoyed by her fellow 20 year olds all being animal lovers and gay supportive. This is her way of standing out. Yes, her parents may have influenced her too in her thinking. Of course, you can still find friends who are also "against what is popular", so this 20 year old has her "click" helping her on facebook.

 

And, yes, we all change... not just sexually, but also in other ways like politically (a.k.a. Reagan and Eisenhower were both... surprise!... Democrats before becoming Republican presidents... and Charlton Heston was anti-guns in the sixties, but a spokesman for the NRA in the nineties). Maybe even this 20 year will have an 180 degree turn around at age 40? Not to get "stereotypical", but it is a woman's prerogative to change her mind.

 

Rounding out the rest of the original post...

 

As for saying gays cannot be tragic in movies anymore (if that is indeed what you are advocating) it is sort of like saying the opera diva has to now be shown as cheerful and Maria Callas should smile through the tears when she is singing. I am not comparing all gay men to opera divas, but my point is that if their lives and their stories are heavy on tragedy, let them express it as such and be authentic. 

 

Also, we need to realize that in movies as well as in life, some unhappy endings are happy endings. And some happy endings are actually unhappy endings. Many times a movie will conclude, and the couple seems to have attained a moment of bliss, but we know that the next conflict is around the corner, and some of them did not really choose the best mate to deal with what's next.

 

Humorously Sean Penn's Harvey Milk death scene was done to opera.

 

No, I am not advocating that gays can not be "tragic" and, yes, I agree with the logic here. Movies and TV must focus on THE STORY more than anything else and some stories are supposed to be unhappy for a reason. The question is: Are there enough different storylines or are all storylines too similar? There is no problem with a "tragic" gay character, but is there a balance maintained with alternative characters?

 

Alas... Hollywood frequently gets into a rut with "stock" storylines in order to maintain a steady production flow. One criticism addressed in the wake of the Oscar controversy was that too many scripts are written for specific Caucasian stars in mind (cast ahead of time in the sales pitches) and, while a role can ultimately fit anybody as long as the actor plays a "human", many black performers have complained about being a "last choice" after a screenplay is written and the producer suddenly decides "Gee, I guess we need more diversification!" This is why a black character frequently pops up in the background as a "novelty" (but does not participate much in the plot) in a film like Jurassic World.

 

OK... time to tell a story.

 

A story about Amos & Andy.

 

"Amos & Andy" was one of the longest running radio shows in history, starting as "Sam 'n' Henry" in 1926 (changing to A&A two years later) and ending as a "guest show" music program in 1960.

Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll were Caucasians who grew up around RURAL black culture and... in an odd but affectionate way... embraced the mannerisms of a black culture of the South. Let us be brutally frank here. A substantial portion of the black American community was not terribly educated or well-off financially under the Jim Crow laws and segregation of the era. As many admit today, "lots of people actually talked just like Amos & Andy". Not EVERYBODY of course... and a lot less so after World War II, when the times were changing for the better and a network (CBS) made the mistake of bringing a popular radio show to TV.

 

But I am getting too far ahead in my story.

 

Because the characters were so lovable and many radio listeners were only vaguely conscious that they may potentially be black stereotypes (since they had as much depth and personality as "un-cosmopilitan" heavily accented Caucasian characters like Lum & Abner), the show had a special emotional bond with listeners of all races and social status. It has been said that you could take a walk down any street in New York City in 1931 and hear their show in "living multi-channel stereo". The major city sewage departments were tortured by the fact that most of the toilets would all flush at the same time... five minutes after each show ended. Probably no television show had such a huge audience as A&A had as a radio show at the start of the Depression.

New characters like Kingfish took a lead role, but the original title of the series remained the same. In the '30s it was a semi-dramatic serial. By 1943, it became a sitcom comedy running a half hour. These radios shows were... surprisingly... quite progressive socially in that they were an outlet for many actual black performers to guest star on the air-waves... at a time when only a few, like Jack Benny's program for example, had interracial casts. It is important to remember that Gosden and Correll had no issues performing along side black performers in an era when it wasn't socially accepted. Many might not view them this way today, but they were ahead of their time.

CBS under Paley bought out many rival NBC radio performers by a classic 1948 "raid" and transferred them to CBS TV in succeeding years. However it was no longer fashionable to utilize the original voice artists by having them "black up" like they did in their controversial feature film Check and Double Check back in 1930. Instead CBS decided to use actual black performers in the roles. In a period when there were virtually no black performers on television, this seemed like a very progressive move for an important reason:  A&A was so popular on radio that "white" America may actually watch a show with "all-black" cast and... maybe, just maybe... A&A would open the doors to further "diversified" programming.

Alas... all havoc broke loose. 

It is understandable why the NAACP was concerned. Had CBS decided to make, say, The Cosby Show with a black professional and a middle class family to compete with Father Knows Best, there would be no problem. Yet CBS was nervous about pushing the envelope too far... too fast and wanted to use a "tried and true" formula already successful on radio. If A&A was a success, it would lead to a potential Cosby. Yet the NAACP and other professional black American groups objected to the fact that the ONLY all-black show on television featured jive-talking uneducated near-do-wells. These were not Sidney Poitier "types".  What is ironic about the situation is that, despite being cancelled on prime time in 1953, A&A was a huge syndicated juggernaut playing on multiple TV stations all the way until 1966. So it never officially left TV! It also made VHS in the '80s without a hitch.

Now... meanwhile... many sponsors coming from racially prejudiced corporations were skittish about ANY black characters on TV. All they needed was an "excuse" to avoid backing these shows. When A&A was cancelled after a two year run, many declared "I told you so... these types of shows are too polarizing". Do you think "Uncle" Walt Disney was going to show multiple races on The Mickey Mouse Show two years after A&A ended in controversy and get financial support for his amusement park? When NBC decided to give Nat King Cole his own show, they were forced to pay for it alone. The A&A "curse" was the new excuse that got that (very different and more acceptable by the NAACP) show canceled after just a season and a half. As Nat King Cole quipped, "Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark".

Of course, there was gradual progress. We got I Spy with an interracial team a decade later. Then, during the fall season that followed Martin Luther King's assassination, Julia. Flip Wilson temporarily became the top TV star by 1970 and the 1980s saw Bill Cosby once again at the top. Grey's Anatomy and the fellow ABC shows featuring the same producer helped make mixed casts commonplace so that, despite actual communities today not exactly being "mixed" in America, at least the TV "landscape" is more diversified than ever before.

 

There is nothing really wrong with Amos & Andy when seen today. Spike Lee apparently is a fan. The characters are quite lovable, much like the lovable, but "flamboyant", gays in Modern Family. The whole problem with the NAACP was that it was the ONLY presentation of "black culture" on television during a time when there was NO "black culture" on television... and it represented an earlier, less sophisticated and pre-civil rights era that 1950s "black culture" was trying to rise above. Sanford & Son was strikingly similar to A&A in its setting and style of humor, but that show aired in the 1970s when there was a much broader menu to choose from.

 

Hopefully the "menu" for gay characters will broaden as well... and not just in "indie" productions shown at the Sundance film Festival, but in major productions back by the studios.

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Jlewis,

 

You brought up several interesting points. I want to address this one:

 

The closest to a "mainstream" movie (widely seen in an "available on DVD at Wal-Mart" sort of way) I can think of, off hand, is The Kids Are Alright with Julianne Moore and Annette Benning as a married couple with kids, released five and a half years before gay marriage became nationwide. While the ending is good with the kids proud of their same sex parents, I had some issues with it being a "goofy" comedy rather than a serious one...

 

The problem I have with movies like this is that they are usually liberal medicine for conservative audiences, and they quickly veer away from entertainment to preaching. Of course, they could not have one of the kids not be proud of the same sex parents. That would defeat the purpose of the movie. So ultimately, I do not see these kinds of films as being realistic, merely fantasies of the left that try to push progressive ideals on all audiences, and end up proselytizing in their own way. When they get awards not for technical skill but for political reasons, it compounds the problem.

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Jlewis,

 

You brought up several interesting points. I want to address this one:

 

The closest to a "mainstream" movie (widely seen in an "available on DVD at Wal-Mart" sort of way) I can think of, off hand, is The Kids Are Alright with Julianne Moore and Annette Benning as a married couple with kids, released five and a half years before gay marriage became nationwide. While the ending is good with the kids proud of their same sex parents, I had some issues with it being a "goofy" comedy rather than a serious one...

 

The problem I have with movies like this is that they are usually liberal medicine for conservative audiences, and they quickly veer away from entertainment to preaching. Of course, they could not have one of the kids not be proud of the same sex parents. That would defeat the purpose of the movie. So ultimately, I do not see these kinds of films as being realistic, merely fantasies of the left that try to push progressive ideals on all audiences, and end up proselytizing in their own way. When they get awards not for technical skill but for political reasons, it compounds the problem.

 

I love how you worded that and, yes, I can see that film in that light. However I disagree a little here in that I don't view it as "Left" oriented film. The makers of that movie are probably more "middle of the road" (neither "Left-est" nor "Right-est") but simply...

a.) making a comedy about a popular social issue since it is "trendy" and...

b.) trying not to offend one group over another by picking sides.

 

However I think they failed a little bit here by making the characters a trifle "stock" (maybe not EXACTLY stereotyped, but slightly "cardboard-ish" in their mannerisms) and having Mark's character as a potential heterosexual "cure" who almost succeeds. Also the bulk of the film is less a "gay issues" movie than a "Gee, the kids have a biological TRADITIONAL father after all and he will be an influence on their lives". So... yeah... it IS a film that many "conservative" (or, rather, uncomfortable-with-gays people) would favor over Brokenback Mountain.

 

In other words, my criticism is that the makers are playing it too safe in order not to upset the apple-cart. Of course, in my very windy and totally pointless (sorry, about that) "essay" on Amos & Andy, CBS thought they were playing safe and yet "diversifying" TV for the better, but it didn't work out as they had planned. This film, however, didn't cause trouble with anybody... so SOME may see differently than I did that it "worked".

 

I know what kind of movies you are referring to, although I don't... quite see this one as an example. Stanley Kramer, who produced Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, was often accused of preaching messages when the Hollywood logic was "use Western Union" instead. Nonetheless... what made GWCTD better than the competition is that we had several characters discussing an issue from different angles and opinions so that different members of the audience had characters they could relate to. I have yet to see this kind of film emerging today.

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Well, I can't please everybody. Also, I'm bisexual myself and it's as natural to me as homosexuality is to men and women. I don't believe everybody is bisexual at heart because that is benevolent biphobia.

 

J- that was meant as a compliment, and maybe I'm biased because I've known you longer than TopBilled and I was trying to find the common ground in what looked like an argument heating up. I should have been more respectful towards both your agencies. 

 

I think that there are a lot of intersectional struggles that would be great films, and on the business end, make good box office. I mentioned Bayard Rustin earlier, but I could have easily mentioned Zora Neale Hurston and Josephine Baker. If Mo'Nique gets her Hattie McDaniel project off the ground, I hope they will explore her possible spectrum'd sexuality. But, dare mix gossip with fact. 

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J- that was meant as a compliment, and maybe I'm biased because I've known you longer than TopBilled and I was trying to find the common ground in what looked like an argument heating up. I should have been more respectful towards both your agencies. 

 

Pffft! We never argue. Have we, Topbilled? Ha ha! Actually we tend to fight on the same side but have a different choice of weapons.

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A gay version of "Guess Who is Coming to Dinner" would be interesting- of course that could be another title for " The Birdcage"

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A gay version of "Guess Who is Coming to Dinner" would be interesting- of course that could be another title for " The Birdcage"

That was The Birdcage, with the addition of Republicans to the plot. 

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That was The Birdcage, with the addition of Republicans to the plot. 

Although, I don't think Spencer Tracy would look that good in drag. Laurence Olivier maybe. 

52173262-actor-laurence-olivier-wearing-

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Have any of you seen a movie called "Dina East" (1970) about a female movie star with a secret

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Have any of you seen a movie called "Dina East" (1970) about a female movie star with a secret

No I can't say I have, who is in it?

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Pffft! We never argue. Have we, Topbilled? Ha ha! Actually we tend to fight on the same side but have a different choice of weapons.

I missed this post the other day. Yes, not an argument..just clarifying the points we were trying to make.

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